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World population soon to hit the 7 billion (or so) mark

Sometime around Halloween, we’re told, the world’s 7th billion living person will be born.

It will be a statistical and somewhat sketchy milestone since there is no way to actually, accurately, identify this bouncing 7-billionth baby. That won’t stop anyone from trying, of course, and so the UN is suggesting each country identify its own 7th-billion baby.

Whether you should celebrate this milestone, recoil in horror or shrug depends upon your perspective regarding global population growth. Author of the the term (and book called) the “Population Bomb,” Paul Ehrlich continues to predict doom and gloom due to the swelling global population.

But Ehrlich’s earlier predictions of mass human starvation in the 1980s caused by too many people didn’t come true. Starvation still kills (as is happening right now in East Africa) but not really due to too many people. We still have enough food to feed everyone. The reason people starve today is due more to economic and political barriers.

Zambia is the world’s fastest growing nation, and also a low-income country. That’s generally regarded as being on the problem side of the population equation. Population growth and poverty are not a good mix. Yet for many poor farming communities in Africa, larger families translated into a larger family labor pool, as well as the parents only form of social security for when they get old or sick.

One of the main solutions to the problem of over-population and poverty is to educate girls and women about family planning, and to reduce the barriers for girls getting an education.

As this report from The Guardian notes, Tanzania is learning the value of education as a means to encouraging reduced family size:

A third of Tanzanians over 10 years old cannot read or write and those women with no education have an average of 6.9 babies. Women with a primary school education have 5.6 babies on average and those with secondary and higher education, just 3.2 babies.

So how much as the world’s population grown since you were born? I’m not a spring chicken and the world had only 2.8 billion people milling around when I came into being. China’s population was on the decline back then (due to extreme poverty and bad politics).

You can see for yourself how things have changed since your birth date using this interactive from The Guardian.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.